DENVER (AP) — Colorado wildlife officials found evidence of at least six wolves in the state's northwest region, a second indication of a return by the animals after a long absence, officials said.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement Wednesday confirming the Colorado Parks and Wildlife discovery and asking residents to make room for the wolves.
“This is very likely the first pack to call our state home since the 1930s. I am honored to welcome our canine friends back to Colorado after their long absence,” Polis said.
"While the animals have naturally migrated to our state and their presence draws public interest, it is important that people give them space,” Polis said.
Two state wildlife officers in Moffat County found a cow carcass Sunday. There was evidence of wolves in the same area two weeks ago, officials said.
The officers made howling sounds to test whether wolves might be present, The Denver Post reported Wednesday.
Wolves howled back, and the officers used binoculars to spot at least six wolves about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the carcass, agency spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell said.
“After watching them for about 20 minutes, the officers rode in to get a closer look,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife northwest region manager JT Romatzke said. “The wolves were gone, but they found plenty of large tracks in the area.”
The tracks measured about 4.5 inches to 5.5 inches (11 to 14 centimeters), the department said.
A question regarding whether to reintroduce endangered gray wolves on public land in western Colorado by the end of 2023 will appear on the November ballot.
The discovery of wolves adds urgency to the need for a state-backed species reintroduction, Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund President Rob Edward said.
“We need to move ahead with re-introduction to make sure Colorado is in the driver seat for management and recovery and that we actually get to the point of having a healthy population,” Edward said.